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Dear Pankaj, I have arrived safely back in Australia after the most memorable 1 month of my life...in India. As a little girl I dreamt of going to India and riding elephants and camels, and thanks to you, my little-girl dream has now come true. I can't express in words how much this trip has meant to me on a spiritually personal level...

Rosemary Price (Australia)

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India is diverse – both culturally as well as geographically - Stretching from the sacred Ganges to the sand of Thar desert and from the frozen barrier of the Himalayas to the lush tropical greenery of Kerala, the country’s boundaries cover unrivaled variety.

 

With a population over 1.2 Billion, India is the birth place of some of the Worlds greatest faiths such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism. Twenty-three major languages and more than a thousand minor language dialects are spoken in India and it is said that after every 50 Kilometers the language and the taste of water the changes in India.
Thus India is referred to as “Unity in Diversity “.

 

 

SOME FACTS ABOUT INDIA:

 

  • India is the world’s seventh largest country, covering more than 3 million square kilometers.
  • Population wise it is the world’s second largest country with a population of approx 1.2 Billion.
  • World’s largest democracy.
  • World’s second largest producer of computer software.
  • Land of Buddha, where he lived and taught.
  • Land of Gandhi, who gave the message of peace to the modern world.
  • Home of Bollywood which produces the largest number of movies in the world as a single film industry.
  • And of course Cricket – which is considered as a religion in India.

 

 

GENERAL INFORMATIONS

General Informations
  • CAPITAL – NEW DELHI
  • LARGEST CITY – MUMBAI
  • OFFICIAL LANGUAGES – HINDI, ENGLISH
  • GOVERNMENT – DEMOCRATIC FEDERAL REPUBLIC
  • PRESIDENT – PRATIBHA PATIL
  • VICE- PRESIDENT – MOHAMMED HAMID ANSARI
  • PRIME MINISTER – MANMOHAN SINGH
  • INDEPENDENCE FROM UNTED KINGDOM
  • DECLARED – 15 AUGUST 1947
  • REPUBLIC – 26 JANUARY 1950
  • POPULATION – APPROX 1.2 BILLION
  • CURRENCY – INDIAN RUPEE (INR)
  • TIME ZONE – IST (UTC + 5:30)
  • DRIVES ON THE – LEFT
  • INTERNET TLD - .in
  • INTERNATIONAL DIALING CODE - +91
  • NATIONAL FLAG – TRICOLOUR
  • NATIONAL EMBLEM- ASHOKA PILLAR FROM SARNATH
  • ANTHEM – JANA GANA MANA
  • NATIONAL SONG – VANDE MATARAM
  • NATIONAL ANIMAL – ROYAL BENGAL TIGER
  • NATIONAL BIRD – INDIAN PEAFOWL
  • NATIONAL FLOWER – LOTUS
  • NATIONAL TREE – BANYAN
  • NATIONAL FRUIT – MANGO
  • NATIONAL SPORT – FIELD HOCKEY
  • CALENDAR - SAKA

 

 

PEAK SEASON FOR TOURISM

 

In India the period between October – March and in the Himalayas between April – September is considered as the peak tourist season so travel arrangements should be made well in advance. Since Travel facilities are limited in relation to demand during peak season, prior bookings are a must.

 

 

PLANNING TO VISIT INDIA

 

Planning to Visit India

Foreigners require a valid passport from their country and an Indian Visa issued by the Indian High Commission to enter India. But there are some exceptions too for a Non Indians can enter India without a Visa,

 

  • Citizens of Nepal & Bhutan do not require a visa to enter India.
  • Nationals of the Maldives do not require a visa to enter India for visits of up to 90 days.
  • Non-Resident Indians (NRI) and Persons of Indian Origin who hold either PIO or an OCI, which are the equivalent of a long India visa.

Types of India Visas

  1. Tourist Visa
  2. Business Visa
  3. Student Visa
  4. Transit Visa
  5. Conference Visa

To obtain an Indian Visa you are required to submit the following documents to the Indian High Commission in your country.

  • Valid Passport for at least next 6 months.
  • Supporting documents if required
  • Visa fees
  • Two passport size photographs
  • Duly filled visa application form

Start the Visa process a minimum of 1 month prior to your flight to India.
Some parts of India, mainly the international border areas, are closed to foreign tourists so you will require a special permit to visit such areas.

 

 

GETTING TO INDIA

 

Getting to India

India is bordered by the sea but it is not a very popular mode of transportation to India or neighbors with which India does not have very good mutual political relations so the best way to arrive in India is by air.

 

 

MAJOR INTERNATIONAL AIRPORTS IN INDIA ARE:

  • Indira Gandhi International Airport, New Delhi
  • Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport, Mumbai
  • Netaji Subhash Chandra International Airport, Kolkata
  • Chennai International Airport, Chennai
  • Bengaluru International Airport, Bengaluru
  • Hyderabad Airport
  • Goa Airport
  • Amritsar International Airport , Amritsar
  • Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel International Airport, Ahmedabad
  • Cochin International Airport, Cochin
  • Trivandrum International Airport, Trivandrum
  • Lokpriya Gopinath Bordolio International Airport, Guwahati
  • Gaya Airport , Bodhgaya

 

 

AIRPORT & CUSTOMS

 

If you are carrying items of high value like cameras, laptops etc for your personal use during your trip, you may be asked to fill in a form (Tourist Baggage Re-export Form) – TBRE by customs people, filling the form will allow you to bring items into India free of duty, but please ensure that you take them back with you when you leave India. Anyone above 17 can bring
one litre of spirits or a bottle of wine and 250ml spirits, 200 cigarettes or 50 cigars or 250 gms of tobacco per person.

 

Security

 

In domestic flights in India matchboxes and lighters, liquids, batteries and some electronic items are not allowed in your cabin baggage, so carry them only in your check-in luggage.
Because of security checks it is suggested to reach the airport 90 minutes prior to domestic flight departures and 3 hours prior to your International flight departure time.

 

Baggage Allowance

 

Government-owned airlines in India have a baggage allowance of 30 kg in Economy and 40 kg in First Class and in other private airlines it is 20 kg in Economy and 30 kg in First Class. In your cabin baggage you can carry only a single piece of hand baggage (within certain size specifications) on domestic flights.

 

Airport Departure Tax

 

Airport departure tax is usually included in your international tickets. Therefore, you do not require to pay it at the airport on your departure.

 

 

ACCOMMODATION (HOTELS)

 

Accommodation (Hotels)

Hotels in India can be categorized into 6 segments based on tourist’s interest and budget.

 

Palace Heritage Hotels & 5-star Luxury Hotels:

 

Villas properties of Oberoi, palaces converted into heritage hotels such as Rambagh Palace Jaipur, Ummaid Bhavan Palace Jodhpur and luxury resorts like Leela Kovalam Beach come under this category. These hotels are ranked among some of the best hotels in the world.

 

5- Star & 4-star Hotels:

 

The hotels that fall under this category are hotels with international cozy facilities like swimming pool, 24 hour room service, multi-cuisine restaurants, coffee shops, centrally air-conditioned and that offer services of International standard. Some to name are Sheraton Group, Intercontinental Group, Hilton Group, Ramada Group, Marriott Group, Oberoi Group, Taj Group, Leela Kempinski etc.

 

3- Star Hotels:

 

Under this category, hotels have standard facilities such as air-conditioned rooms, restaurants etc. A swimming pool is not compulsory but if it's there you should enjoy it...

 

2-Star & 1-Star Hotels:

 

Under this category there are the budget hotels, they offer air-conditioned and air-cooled rooms as a choice.
All rooms have an suite bath. If an order for meals is placed they will arrange for service in the room as in this category the hotel might not have its own restaurant.

 

Home stays:

 

If you want to enjoy your stay with an Indian family and share homemade Indian food on the dinner table with them go for home-Stay accommodation. The Home-Stay concept has emerged in recent years and is getting very famous among the western travelers. Some Home-Stays in Rajasthan, Delhi, Goa, and Kerala match the standard of 4 star hotels.

 

Service Apartments:

 

If you are on a long stay at a single destination this is the category for you. A Service Apartment offers a kitchen facility where you can cook your own food too.

 

 

CLIMATE & CLOTHING

India’s weather is extremely varied and the climate can be divided into three main seasons.

 

Winter

 

Climate & Clothing

Stretches from mid October to mid March. This is also the major season for tourism in India except in the Himalayan region. During this period of time the maximum temperature in North India / South India is below 30 degree celcius and the minimum for North India can dip to 5 degree celcius in December However in South India it never dips below of 15 degrees celcius. In the Himalayas this is snow time and winter sports like skiing attracts a lots of tourists to this region.

 

Clothing in winter –

 

North India  –  Light woolen
South India – The best time to show your wardrobe. Woolens are not required if you are not visiting the hills in the south.
Himalayas   –   Heavy woolens

 

Summer

 

Stretches from April to June. During this period of time the maximum temperature in North India can rise up to 42 degree celcius & South India to 38 degree celcius, the minimum for North India is 25 degree celcius & South India would not be less than 30 degrees celcius. The Himalayas have very pleasant weather during this period and the place is full of tourists enjoying the beauty and adventure sports such as trekking in the Himalayas.

 

Summers are not recommended for tourism in India but hotels offer discounts up to 50 % from May onward, which gives you a golden opportunity to enjoy Indian hospitality at very reasonable prices so if you can beat the heat …. The coin is in your hand.

 

Clothing in summer –

 

North India – Light Cotton, Sunglasses, light hats or cap are recommended.
South India – Light Cotton, Sunglasses, light hats or cap are recommended.
Himalayas –   Light woolens you might be required in the mornings and evenings.

 

Rainy season (Monsoon)

 

Stretches from mid July to August. This is the time when India gets most of its rain. Again in this period up to August, hotels are on sale so it’s your choice. However peak season continues in the Himalayas with trekking lovers.

 

Clothing in Monsoon –
North India Light and quick drying clothing.
South India Light and quick drying clothing.
Himalayas -   Light woolens might be required in the mornings and evenings.  

 

 

HEALTH

 

Standards of hygiene and sanitation have increased greatly over the past decade in India.

 

Health

No vaccinations in India are legally required for entry into India unless you are arriving from a country infected with yellow fever. But it is recommended for you to have vaccinations for meningitis, typhoid and hepatitis A and it’s worth ensuring that you are up to date with tetanus, polio etc boosters. It is also advised to stay far from our dear friends like monkeys and dogs when you are touring India no matter how cute they appear to avoid any case of rabies. Keep mosquito repellent cream with you to avoid any chance of mosquito bites.

 

Altitude sickness might appear on a trip to the Himalayan on approaching an altitude of 3000 meters above sea level so always follow the rule of “Not to go too high too fast”

 

Drinking water – Try to stick with bottled mineral water while touring India. All famous brands like Bisleri, Kinley, Aquafina etc  are available everywhere in India.

 

Food – Indian food is a little spicy but say no to very very spicy ones. Use Beer, Yogurt (Curd) with your meals to lessen the spice.

 

Ayurveda is a 5000 year Indian way of medicine system and is widely practiced in India. Ayurveda assumes the fundamental sameness of self and nature. Unlike the allopathic medicines of the West, which depends on the finding out what’s ailing and then killing it, Ayurveda looks at the whole patient, disease is regarded as a symptom of imbalance, so it’s the imbalance that’s treated not the disease.

 

 

COMMUNICATION

 

Telephone:

 

Communication

International dialing code for India is + 91. Every tourist destination / hotel in India is equipped with facilities for International calls (ISD), National calls (STD) and local calls.

 

Mobile Phones:

 

Indian mobile numbers are of 10 digits and are available in both GSM & CDMA modes. If you want to use an Indian SIM card while touring India the provider requires a photo copy of your passport and one passport size photograph.

 

Internet:

 

All hotels and tourist destinations in India have an internet facility. Nowadays many hotels are also equipped WLAN Hot spots.

 

Other mail services

 

India has a reliable postal mail system with a combination of Government postal services and private setups like DHL and DTDC etc to ensure safe and fast delivery of your post, couriers within India and from India to your home.

 

 

ELECTRICITY

 

Generally 220 V 50 Hz AC is supplied all over India however some areas may have a supply of Direct Current (DC). So it's better idea to check before you use your electrical appliances. Most sockets are triple round pin accepting European size double round pin plugs. For British, Irish, Australian plugs an adapter is required and for American / Canadian appliances, transformer is required too.

 

 

CURRENCY

 

Currency

The unit of Indian currency is the Rupee (Rs). Paper money constitutes of 5,10,20,50,100,500, 1000 rupee notes and coins are of 1, 2 & 5.

 

Remark:

    • It’s technically illegal to take rupees in or out of India.
    • Currency of 500 and 100 looks remarkably similar.
    • Always be cautious before taking a currency of 500 as 1 out of 10 is duplicate however there are some significant points to differentiate and once you know it’s a work of your left hand.
    • Always exchange your currency / Traveler’s cheque with the authorized money changer.
    • You can bring up to US $ 10000 Currency / Traveler’s cheque or equivalent without declaration at the time of entry to India.
    • Indian currency up to Rs. 100 notes are accepted in Nepal & Bhutan (Avoid to carry Indian currency of 500 and 1000 as they are illegal in Nepal and Bhutan).

Exchange Rates

 

US $ is equivalent to INR 45 as mean and vary from 40 to 48 depending upon economic situation
GBP is equivalent to INR 75 as mean and vary from 68 to 82 depending upon economic situation
EURO is equivalent to INR 60 as mean and vary from 56 to 64 depending upon economic situation
AUS $ is equivalent to INR 35 as mean and vary from 32 to 38 depending upon economic situation

 

 

BUSINESS HOURS

 

Bank working hours are 1000 – 1500 Hrs from Monday to Friday and 1000 – 1230 Hrs on Saturdays.Office working hours are 1000 – 1800 Hrs from Monday to Friday and 1000 – 1400 Hrs on Saturday
However government offices and multinational companies are closed on Saturdays.

 

 

TIPPING:

 

Restaurant - Some restaurants in India include service charges on their bills. In such cases tipping is not essential. Where this is not, a tip of 10% is expected. If you are in a big group, then 5% tipping of the bill amount is fine.

 

Porters – Tipping to the porter who takes care of your baggage: At hotels they are usually tipped Rs.10 to Rs.20 per trolley.

 

Drivers / Guides - Tipping to taxi drivers / Tour Guides is not customary. However they do expect samething.

 

 

SHOPPING

 

India is shopper’s paradise and each city has its own specialty like Textiles, jewelry and handicraft some to mention are -

  • Jaipur  -  Traditional textiles, Handicraft, Jewelry, Gems and Semi precious stones.
  • Agra  -  Marble Art
  • Delhi  -  Kashmiri Carpets, Pashmina etc
  • Udaipur  -  Miniature Paintings
  • Jodhpur  -  Traditional Textile, Handicraft, Jodhpur Antiques
  • Jaisalmer  -  Handicraft, Antiques
  • Varanasi  -  Silk Saree, Silk Carpet, Handicraft
  • Mysore  -  Mysore Silk product, Sandalwood items

 

 

PHOTOGRAPHY

 

There is no restriction on amateur photography of national monuments with still camera or an 8mm. movie camera. But photography is prohibited in places of military importance, i.e. airports, railway station, bridges and sensitive border regions. Some temples also prohibit interior or even exterior photography. Some monuments, forts may also charge fees for photography. Photography is also prohibited at the Taj Mahal but if you have prior permission from the Archaeological Survey of India, Janpath, New Delhi, 110 001 you can go ahead.  For any commercial and professional photography, special permission must be obtained from the Archaeological Survey of India. Similar permission is required for movie cameras other than of 8mm cameras.

 

 

INDIAN CULTURE & ETIQUETTE

 

The Right Hand rule

 

Indian Culture & Etiquette

In Indian culture you are supposed to do all good things with your right hand and left hand is for inferior acts, like eating food with your right hand, shake hands with your right hand, passing things with your right hand etc and useing your left hand for works like wearing shoes, cleaning your feat etc. If you pass anything to a person with your left hand means this is not a respectful deed as per Indian culture. If it's by both hand it’s very good gesture.

 

Temples and Religion

 

One is expected to cover ones head before entering a religious place such as a Hindu / Sikh temples or a mosque and to not forget to remove your footwear while visiting a place of worship or a mausoleum. Also some temples do not permit any leather articles at all on their premises. Certain temples do not allow admission to Non-Hindus.

 

Funeral processions are a private affair, and should be left in peace. Such occasions should be treated with respect, and
should not be photographed or filmed.

 

Dress

Indian people are very conservative about dress. Women are expected to dress modestly, with legs and shoulders covered. Trousers are acceptable, but shorts and short skirts are offensive to many. Men should also avoid shorts except at beach areas (It’s a sign of low caste as per Indian way of living). These rules go double in Temples and Mosques.

 

Never mind Naga Sadhus and sky – clad Jains, nudity is not acceptable in India. The mild - mannered people of Goa may not say anything about nude bathing (In theory it’s prohibited too) but you can be sure they will never like it.

 

Other Possible Gaffes

 

Kissing and embracing are regarded as a part of sex in India, so do not do them in public.

When entering a private home you should normally remove your shoes.

Avoid pointing the soles of your shoes to anyone.

 

Some useful Hindi Words

  • Hello / Good Bye - Namaste
  • My name is Peter – Mera naam Peter hai.
  • How are you? – Aap kaise hai?
  • Good – Acha
  • Very Good – Bahot Acha
  • Thank you – Dhanyavad / Shukriya
  • Yes - Haa / Ji Haa (Informal / More formal)
  • No - Nahi / Ji Nahi (Informal / More formal)
  • You – Aap (Formal, respectfully)
  • You – Tum (Familiar)
  • Today – Aaj
  • Tomorrow / Yesterday – Kal
  • Day – Din
  • Night – Raat
  • Afternoon – Dopahar
  • Evening – Shaam
  • Tasty / Delicious – Swadist
  • Enjoyed it – Majaa aaya

 

 

TRAVELLERS WITH DISABILITIES

 

If you are physically disabled – it might benefit you on a tour of India rather than in Western countries as disability doesn’t get the same embarrassed reactions in India as you sometimes get from able bodied Westerners. Indian people are very helpful for example in crossing the road, getting on and off from the bus or stairs etc there will be always hands willing to help you. Airports and all Major Hotels are equipped with wheelchairs and disabled loo etc facilities. Our drivers and guides are also always in position to help you. It is suggested for disabled traveler to always travel with a companion or in a group.  

 

 

TOILETS

Western toilets are becoming much more common in India now and all Hotels, Restaurants, Midway stops even many monuments are equipped with western Toilets.

 

 

CRIME AND PERSONAL SAFETY

 

India is very safe and tourist friendly country and we believe in “Atithi Devo Bhavah” which means a Guest at your place is like a God. Crime levels in India are a long way below those of Western countries, and violent crime against tourists is extremely rare. But as a tourist you should be beware in crowded locations to avoid any incident of pickpocketing etc.

 

 

WOMEN TRAVELLERS

 

India is a very safe country for Female travelers. The indian society is male dominant but still women have a very respected position in the society. As a women tourist you will find the phrase “Ladies First” is very much true in India. Women are never required to form a queue, they can reach the counter and avail the facility e.g. purchase a train ticket etc, there are seats and compartments reserved specially for ladies in busses and Indian trains. Violent sexual assaults on women tourists are extremely rare in India.

 

INDIAN CUISINE

 

Indian Cuisine

Indian food has a richly deserved reputation as one of the world’s great cuisines and is as varied as the country is with every region having its own specialty. Indian food can be distinguished between North Indian and South Indian food.
North Indian food is the style generally what we find in Indian restaurants abroad. It is characterized by its rich meat and vegetable dishes in thick tomato, onion and yoghurt based sauces, accompanied by thick breads. While South Indian food, in contrast is mostly vegetarian with spicy chilli and coconut flavors and lots of rice, either served in natural state or made into one of the South Indian distinctive range of pancakes, such as dosa, iddli and uttapam.

 

For vegetarians, in particular, Indian food is a complete delight. Indian food, being fiery hot, is a complete myth. It is cuite mildly spiced compared to Indian restaurants abroad.

 

Alcohol is banned in the state of Gujarat in India however a prior permit can allow you to have alcohol whitin certain limits.

 

Paan

 

A chewing sweet Paan is a digestive, commonly taken after meals especially in east India, where it is fresh and much stronger. Paan consist of chopped areca palm nut wrapped in betel vine leaf with ingredients such as Katha (a red paste), Chuna (slaked white lime), and mitha masala (a mix of sweet spices). However Paan is also available in Zarda version (Tobacco ingredient). Tourist city Varanasi (Benaras) in east India is very popular for its Hall mark “Paan” and streets are dotted with numerous Paan walas (Pan Sellers).

 

Sweets

 

Most of the Indians have sweet tooth and all sweet stalls in Bazaars and Restaurants in India are full of numerous variety of sweets mainly made from milk products. Some to name are Barfi, Peda, Carrot Halwa, Jalebis, Gulab Jamun, Ladoo, and Rasmalai etc. Kolkata is famous for its variety and quality of sweets. Be sure to try Kulfi a pistachio and cardamom flavored frozen sweet which is India’s answer to ice-cream.     

 

Masala Chai (Tea)

 

Masala chai is Indian tea prepared by brewing tea with a mixture of herbs and aromatic Indian spices. It is also gaining popularity in western world.

 

 

 

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